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John A. Kline, PhD

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September 2017

Leading Meetings Effectively - Part IV

When leading meetings, leaders must avoid do-nothing questions; that is, questions that don’t accomplish anything. Here are five do-nothing questions:

1. Dead-end questions.  Yes-no questions such as: “Is mutual trust the most important thing?”  This question will not promote discussion; and it might encourage guessing which is a waste of time.   If you ask a yes-no question and get just a “yes” or “no,” answer, then follow up by asking “how” or “why” so that people will explain their answers and have something to discuss.

2. Foggy questions are nebulous or unclear, usually because the asker has not thought out what he or she is looking for?   “What happened in Montgomery, Alabama in 1975?”  Even if the asker knows what he is looking for, others don’t have a clue.   By the way, the answer I was looking for is: “John Kline moved there.” 

3. Multiple questions confuse others by their double and triple-barreled (or more) approach.  “What are some characteristics of effective leaders, how do they acquire these, and which characteristics are most important?” The result is that listeners are confused; don’t know where to start; and they may give disorganized answers—if they answer at all.

4. Catch questions arewhere you give the answer in the question. “Now, this is the first step, isn’t it?”  At best others can nod yes or no.  Perhaps leaders at times want to use catch questions, but they shouldn’t expect such questions to invite involvement by anyone, other than someone who just wants to argue or disagree.

5. Loaded questions can make the respondent look bad no matter the answer given.  Consider this one: “Have you stopped pressuring your subordinates?”  If the answer is” yes,” it implies admission that the person once did it; if the answer is “no,” it implies that the person is still doing it.  Loaded questions generally reflect the bias of the one asking them.

Next month we will conclude the five-part series on “Leading Meetings Effectively” by looking at six things for a leader to consider.
John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama
jkline@troy.edu
 
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